Americans behind after first morning jump |

Americans behind after first morning jump

Luke Graham

Billy Demong spreads his wings wide as he touches down on his jump during Wednesday's Nordic combined competition at the Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Demong leads the trio of Americans competing in today's cross-country race, but he has a tough road ahead for a medal.

— Billy Demong leads a trio of Americans into the afternoon 10-kilometer race at the Individual Normal Hill Gundersen event in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Demong finished 31st in the morning jumping portion at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre.

Demong jumped 92.5 meters and will start 1 minute, 33 seconds behind overall leader and gold medal favorite Eric Frenzel of Germany. Akito Watabe of Japan is second 6 seconds back, while Russia's Evgenly Klimov is third, 27 seconds back.

Vancouver gold medalist Jason Lamy Chappuis is eighth, 31 seconds behind.

"It's doable," Demong said after his jump. "It's going to be hard with so many guys in between there. I may make contact with the lead group, but to go through it is going to be tough."

Bryan Fletcher will start 1:44 back in 41st place while brother Taylor will start 2:34 back in 46th place.

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The jumping hill has plagued the Americans all week and that continued Wednesday. Under a cloudless sky and with temperatures in the 50s, the Americans couldn't take advantage.

"I think I'm out of the medal contention," Bryan Fletcher said. "Bill, maybe with a really good race, could put himself in there."

The X factor could be the cross country course. With a tough course, that features an uphill section and teardrop area that could foil some skiers, it's the temperatures that could play the biggest different.

The course was soft and slushy earlier this week, but officials put salt and chemicals on it to harden it up. Having the perfect wax could mean everything.

Skiers like Taylor Fletcher and Demong, who are typically light on their skis, should have an advantage.

Another advantage, with the Americans bunched together, is they could work together to move up.

"I need to focus on the process this afternoon," Demong said. "There are no games to play in the first three laps. It's going to be trying to ski within myself and make up the small pieces of time I can. I'm not paying attention to the people around me, it's just going to be time trialing.

"Then if I turn around at the halfway or three quarter point and things are going my way, then it's time to start playing."